Investigation into the acts of terror committed in 2002 in Kaspiisk, in Moscow's Theater Center in Dubrovka, and in the Chechen republic's government house confirms the links between Chechen terrorists and international terror organisations, including Al Qaeda, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told a Munich international conference on security and defence issues.
The minister stressed that the "Chechen trace" that has regularly appeared in various countries testifies to the fact that Chechen terrorism is part of the "terrorist International." In his words, for over eight years Russia has been fighting "the associates of international terrorism" who "entrenched themselves" in the North Caucasus. "It would be a mistake to think that Russians are fighting Chechens in Chechnya," he said.
"It's not true," Sergei Ivanov said. "In Chechnya, Russian citizens of different ethnic origins, including of Chechen origin, are fighting against bandits and terrorists of different origins. Among those terrorists were citizens of about 40 states, including Arab countries, Turkey, even the US and Japan." The minister noted that terrorists, arms, ammunition and funds got into Chechnya from the neighbouring countries, mainly Georgia and Azerbaijan.
"Any act of terror, any shot or explosion in Chechnya has its price list," Ivanov said, recalling that it had been repeatedly said by the mass media.
"Even during the hostage taking in Moscow in October 2002, terrorist leaders conducted phone talks with their associates and masterminds who were outside Chechnya - in Georgia, Turkey and the Arab Emirates," the minister pointed out.
Ivanov said the people of Chechnya must decide their fate on their own, instead of "giving this right to the armed bandits." "We are not going to negotiate with terrorists," he emphasised.
The minister recalled that last Sunday the Russian TV had shown a recorded tape of a meeting of terrorists headed by Maskhadov and Basayev. A certain Movsar Barayev was then introduced to field commanders. Some time later, he became the head of a gang of terrorists who carried out mass hostage taking in the theatre centre in Dubrovka.
Ivanov said it was impossible to agree about anything with such people, for they must be tried for the committed crimes or eliminated.
"I can tell those who advise us to resume talks with Maskhadov that we've already seen it. If somebody likes to negotiate with terrorists, let them do so with mullah Omar," Sergei Ivanov said.
Speaking about the situation in Chechnya, the minister noted that it was improving - "the economy, the education and healthcare systems are being restored; preparations for the referendum on the Chechen Constitution, due on March 23, and for elections to local power bodies are underway." "The process of political settlement is underway, and this causes a fierce resistance on the part of militants," the minister of defence stressed.